This weekend, many Knoxvillians greeted autumn with a cry of "Opa!"

The 34th annual Greek Fest was held this past weekend at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church. Each fall, residents of Knoxville and surrounding areas gather at the festival to become Greek for a day.

Along with the wide selection of authentic dishes and pastries, guests can also enjoy live music and traditional Greek dancing.

Tina Vamvakias, a church member, said that the amount of effort that goes into the planning and execution of the event is incredible.

"It takes months to plan, I would say the planning starts six months ahead of time," Vamvakias said. "Everybody loves Greek Fest. It grows every year. People come from all over for this, and especially for the pastries. A lot of people come solely for the pastries."

Greek Fest, which aims to bring slices of Greek culture, also celebrates the host church and their iconography, mosaics and stained glass windows through church tours. For some, the experience is as realistic as visiting the country itself.

"I have attended 12 Greek Fests, and I have seen that people really enjoy themselves," said Marvin McCulloth, a volunteer from the church. "This is like a fall day in Greece. Opa! It's a party."

Frank Tsakeres, a man of Greek heritage, finds connections to his family life and culture through Saint George and Greek Fest.

"If you've ever seen 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' that was my family; I'm a first generation," Tsakeres said. "We've been to Santorini, to Romanos and to a bunch of different islands, and this is sort of like a little piece of the heritage right here in Knoxville."

Penny Kemp, a Knoxville resident, finds Greek Fest to be an exciting Knoxville event with a great cultural perspective.

"When I first moved to Knoxville about four years ago, I went to Greek Fest and loved it," Kemp said. "I've been ever since.

"It's original and authentic and they have such a real culture. It's nice to see that they've preserved it."

Many youth and children participate in Greek Fest by volunteering and dancing traditional Greek dances. Kemp said that her favorite part about the event is seeing young people embrace their culture.

"Most young people are only into the fads and the new stuff," Kemp said. "It's nice to see the youth perform old traditional dances that have been passed down through the generations."

Perhaps the most heralded portion of the festival, however, is the bevy of food options available. Vamvakias said that the authentic Greek cuisine is her favorite part of the festival.

"My thing is the food, because I am of Greek heritage, so that always warms my heart," Vamvakias said. "I love the lamb and the pastichio, which is kind of a Greek lasagna, and then of course all the pastries.

"If you've never had Greek food, you have to try it. Once you try it, you will always come back."

For those not able to join this year's festivities, the 35th annual Greek Fest will be held at the church next fall. For more information, visit